In his final game with the team that he helped win a championship, Calvin Hills pitched a gem worthy of a send off.
The 19-year-old veteran right-hander of the Legion Twins decided before the baseball season began to join the U.S. Army, which would cut his summer short when he headed off to begin boot camp. Twins head coach Robb Quelland said the decision to make one last start
“It was hard,” Quelland said. “He wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Hills originally planned to leave after Thursday’s Bill Miller Wood Bat Tournament third-place contest against West, but decided he would be able to stick around another few days to see his team off in a league game.
The final showing was worth it. Hills went six innings in a solid performance to help the Twins to a 13-3 victory in Alaska Legion league play. The Twins improved to 8-5 in league play, a half game behind third-place West in the legion standings and 1 1/2 games behind league-leading South Anchorage. The Twins are 12-10 overall.
Hills was an integral piece to the 2016 Legion championship Twins squad that gutted out an 8-7 victory over Service last summer. After allowing Service back into the game with a four-run relief performance in the eighth inning, Hills returned to the plate to lead off with a base hit, then scored the ultimate game-winning run to earn redemption with his teammates.
Sunday, Hills gave up three runs (one earned) on just three hits and four walks, before packing up his gear and leaving to catch a flight before the game was over.
When asked what Hills will be remembered most for as a player, Quelland listed off several redeeming qualities.
“His hair,” Quelland quipped, before turning serious. “But he is a leader, stoic, and every time the team was in a jam, I’d go to him.”
Sunday’s contest finished in the bottom of the eighth due to the mercy rule being induced when Porter Fannon scored on a squeeze play at the plate to give the Twins a 10-run lead. The game wrapped up as a passing shower stationed itself right over the park. The rain was enough to cancel the second, nonleague contest that was scheduled.
Logan Smith took over for Hills in the seventh and pitched two scoreless innings of relief, giving up a single hit and no walks.
Joe Ryan started for Palmer on the mound and was chased after two innings after giving up five runs on three walks and two hits. Trace Severson finished the final 5 2-3 innings for Palmer, giving up six runs (five earned).
The Post 20 offense also put up plenty of support, knocking out 13 hits and scoring in all but one inning. Kenny Griffin, also in his final game with the team before he heads off for a working opportunity, made the most of his finale with a 4-for-5 performance from the plate while batting in three runs, and leadoff man Paul Steffensen reached five times in six at-bats, hitting 2 for 4 with two walks and scoring four runs. Catcher Cody Quelland also hit 2 for 4 with three runs scored.
Coach Quelland said he was happy to see his team score every inning except one.
“They’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks,” he said. “We know we have younger players, but they took the time to see some good pitching, and it’s nice to get timely hits.”
Post 20 also got some help from a young Palmer team, as the visitors committed seven errors in a sloppy fielding day.
Steffensen led off the first with a walk, then scored on a throwing error by Ryan on the mound. Quelland reached on a Palmer error in the second batting spot, then scored after a throw from home plate to third base went awry.
Quelland brought in two more runs in the second inning after a routine bunt attempt forced Palmer into another mistake, allowing him to reach and Tanner Ussing and Steffensen to score for a 4-0 Twins lead. A groundout by Griffin scored a fifth run for Post 20 before the frame ended.
Palmer clawed back in the top of the third, scoring two runs on a throwing error by Steffensen from his shortstop position, then adding a third run on a wild pitch by Hills. Palmer cut the gap to 5-3 with the sequence of plays.
A single by Jeremy Kupferschmid plated a Twins run in the bottom of the third, and Hills managed to work his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth by inducing a groundout to Alasada McKechnie to end the frame.